The New Japan Cup semi-finals are here, and it’s an eventful show as we find out who’s in with a shot of challenging for Kota Ibushi’s new World Heavyweight Title.
Jeff Cobb & Great-O-Khan pinned Yuya Uemura & Juice Robinson in 8:44 (**¾)
Toru Yano, YOSHI-HASHI & SHO pinned Jado, Chase Owens & Bad Luck Fale in 7:58 (**½)
SANADA, Tetsuya Naito & BUSHI submitted DOUKI, Taichi & Zack Sabre Jr. in 11:19 (***)
Kota Ibushi, Kazuchika Okada & Hiroshi Tanahashi pinned Yujiro Takahashi, Jay White & KENTA in an earthquake-interrupted 10:26 (***)
New Japan Cup 2021 – Semi-Final: Will Ospreay pinned David Finlay in 21:05 (****)
New Japan Cup 2021 – Semi-Final: Shingo Takagi pinned EVIL in 22:43 (***¼)
We’re at the Xebio Arena Sendai with English commentary via Kevin Kelly’s studio, featuring Kevin, Chris Charlton and Gino Gambino. Hey, the arena’s doing that thing where the match listing is on the mid-level LED screens – that’s kinda cool…
United Empire (Jeff Cobb & Great-O-Khan) vs. Juice Robinson & Yuya Uemura
We finally have sight of the Impact tag titles in New Japan…
We’ve a jump start as Cobb proceeds to catch a crossbody from Robinson, but the suplex is wriggled out of as Juice finds a way in with a leg lariat. A Uemura slam and a Juice back senton led to a People’s Elbow for a one-count, before Cobb charges Uemura into the corner to start the Empire beatdown. A waistlock takedown throws Uemura to the mat, as did a gutwrench facebuster, before a head-and-arm choke ended in the ropes. Cobb’s back with a gorilla press slam as O-Khan returns to stand on the downed Uemura, before some Mongolian chops led to a two-count.
Uemura tries to fight back, catching O-Khan with a dropkick before Juice came in with some Dusty punches. A clothesline off the ropes takes O-Khan down, as did a DDT, before O-Khan’s slam attempt was turned into a full nelson slam for another two-count for Juice. After a missed leap off the top, Juice gets caught with an armdrag as tags bring us back to Cobb and Uemura. Shoulder tackles go nowhere, with Cobb chopping back, only to run into a big slam from the Young Lion. Cobb blocks a Boston crab as Uemura tries to roll him over, but he just powers the Young Lion into the ropes. A leaping elbow in the corner misses as Cobb gets double-teamed, but he catches a Stinger splash and tosses Juice with an overhead belly-to-belly for his troubles. O-Khan mops the rest of it up as Uemura tries for flash pins, almost winning with a backslide before a Kanuki suplex was blocked.
Cobb comes back with a clothesline for a two-count, before a Tour of the Islands gets the win. A good opener, but as tends to be the case, it went the way of the form book. **¾
Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Chase Owens & Jado) vs. Toru Yano, YOSHI-HASHI & SHO
Wait, are they still teasing Yano vs. Fale? Anyway, we’re a day removed from Jado’s 32nd anniversary in wrestling. Not as catchy as that 30-years shirt, eh?
SHO gets the short straw, starting against Fale, but after avoiding a splash in the corner he comes back in with kicks to the leg. A low dropkick has Fale down for a two-count, before Owens ran in to stomp apart a cross armbreaker. That’s the cue for the Bullet Club to take things outside and into the railings, before the Tongan Massage Parlour had a booking for SHO. Jado’s in with a grounded side headlock on SHO, before a shoulder tackle snuffed out any thoughts of a comeback. Chase tags in to stomp on SHO, but SHO fights back with elbows before YOSHI-HASHI came into play. YOSHI-HASHI corner Owens, then ran in for a Head Hunter. A low dropkick gets YOSHI-HASHI a two-count, but Chase comes back with a suplex attempt, only for YOSHI-HASHI to escape, then eventually land a rear spin kick.
Owens’ clothesline drops YOSHI-HASHI, as tags bring in Jado and Yano. Off comes the turnbuckle pad, but Fale comes in to help double-team as an elbow drop nearly puts away Yano. A Parade of Moves stops Jado with the Kendo stick, before Yano bopped Fale with the corner pad. Yup. The ref stops Jado, as Yano mule kicks Fale… then low blowed and rolled up Jado for the win, right as Kevin’s feed went out! Pretty much what you expected with this combination, but at least it was kept short. **½
Suzuki-gun (Taichi, Zack Sabre Jr. & DOUKI) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, SANADA & BUSHI)
Taichi recently celebrated his 41st birthday. There was once a time when wrestlers were almost all yay older than me… now they’ve only got a matter of years on me. I don’t know how to feel…
Naito and Taichi start us off, but Taichi just backs into the ropes before he throttled Naito into the corner. BUSHI tries to make the save, but you know what happened next, as Taichi’s all about the choke. When Naito got free, he tosses aside the referee before a neckbreaker left Taichi prone for some payback choking from Naito. All. The. Chokes.
BUSHI’s in to kick away at Taichi, but he’s pushed into a DOUKI kick as Taichi chokes him back into the corner. Yup. Sabre comes in and blocks BUSHI’s headscissors by countering with an ankle lock, before DOUKI tagged in to hit a Goomba stomp off the ropes. A DDT gets BUSHI back in it, before SANADA tagged in and went for a full nelson. Sabre escapes, but his PK’s countered with a Dragon screw, as SANADA followed up on the outside with a plancha. Back inside, a springboard’s ducked by Sabre, who runs into a TKO attempt… but he countered out into a Cobra twist without even touching the mat. SANADA escapes, but his Paradise Lock attempt leads to see-saw pins to troll the ref, almost surprising Sabre in the end.
They go back to uppercuts as SANADA’s back elbow led to a standing moonsault… it’s caught with a triangle armbar, before Sabre countered Skull End with an Octopus stretch. Naito tries to make the save, but he’s caught in a Stretch Plum… my feed drops as we come back with DOUKI DDT’ing SANADA, before Taichi came in to help out. Taichi sets up SANADA for DOUKI’s Daybreak DDT, but Naito breaks up the cover before DOUKI called for Suplex de la Luna… but SANADA armdrags free as LIJ swarmed the ring. A trio of low dropkicks sandwich DOUKI for a two-count, as Naito proceeds to throttle Taichi to the floor again, while SANADA kicked out of an inside cradle from DOUKI.
DOUKI keeps going for flash pins, but SANADA outlasts him before an O’Connor roll took DOUKI into the Skull End for the submission. A pretty fun trios match, as they seem to be hinting towards Naito and Taichi down the line… at least, once Taichi’s done choking everyone. ***
Kota Ibushi, Hiroshi Tanahashi & Kazuchika Okada vs. Bullet Club (Jay White, KENTA & Yujiro Takahashi)
Well, isn’t that a loaded team? Oh, and the Ibushi/Tanahashi/Okada trio isn’t too bad either…
Ibushi and White get us going, as White took Ibushi into the ropes for a kicking. A diving kick has Ibushi reset things, before Okada forcibly tagged himself in as Tanahashi was waiting for it. A slam and a senton atomico has Okada ahead as he then tagged in Tanahashi – clearly bringing up ill feeling with Ibushi. White stops to knock Ibushi off the apron as Tanahashi’s kicked in the ropes. KENTA gets one in too, as the distraction allowed White to pull Tanahashi down by the hair as the match spilled outside. KENTA charges Tanahashi into the railings, and then the show comes to a screeching halt because of an earthquake. Reports listed it as an earthquake measuring 7 on the Richter scale, which was visible to those watching the show as the ceiling lights were shaking. This feels somewhat unprecedented…
They stop the show to do a safety check, eventually resuming with a note that in the event of any aftershocks, they may need to cancel the show. So we un-pause after a 25-minute break, with Jay White stomping away on Tanahashi, before a neckbreaker drew a two-count. KENTA tags in to drop knees on Tanahashi ahead of the mocking back heel, before a chinlock kept Tanahashi down. A Dragon screw from Tanahashi gets him free as Okada tags in, landing a sliding back elbow, then a DDT to KENTA for a two-count. KENTA hits back in kind, then tagged in Yujiro… a front kick keeps Okada in the ropes, before a flapjack dropped Yujiro.
Okada refuses to tag out to Ibushi as he instead opts for a Money Clip on Yujiro. Ibushi tags himself in as the dissension returns. Kicks take down Yujiro ahead of a standing moonsault for a two-count, but White comes in to intervene as a leg sweep takes down Ibushi. White and Yujiro double-team Ibushi as a Blade Buster and a low dropkick gets a two-count. Yujiro keeps pressing on, but a Parade of Moves breaks out with Okada hitting a dropkick to White before Ibushi pushes Okada aside to hit a Kamigoye to get the win. An eventful match to say the least, with the tensions continuing to build outside of the earthquake gags on commentary. ***
Ibushi’s abandoned by everyone after the match. The Pariah of New Japan.
New Japan Cup Semi-Final: Will Ospreay vs. David Finlay
We get going as Finlay scrambles to go for Ospreay’s arm, but they counter back-and-forth with hammerlocks.
A grounded headlock sees Finlay counter out, before a shoulder tackle knocks Ospreay to the outside. Back inside, Ospreay chops away at Finlay, but Finlay’s back with a dropkick and a snap suplex for barely a one-count as Ospreay again rolls outside. Finlay follows outside and throws away Bea, before a back body drop dumps Ospreay on the floor. Back inside, a slam and a back senton gets Finlay a one-count, before he busts out the uppercuts, taking Ospreay into the corner before Ospreay crotches Finlay in the ropes, knocking him down to the floor.
Ospreay chucks Finlay into the rails, knocking the ring bell off the timekeeper’s table before a backbreaker dropped Finlay onto the rails. Returning to the ring, Ospreay throws Finlay into the corner, before a chinlock grounded Finlay, only for Finlay to escape out with a spinning back suplex like it was nothing. Ospreay’s taken outside as Finlay followed with a plancha, before a diving uppercut off the middle rope gets Finlay a near-fall. A handspring from Ospreay’s countered into a Blue Thunder Bomb for another two-count as Finlay’s offence was limited to the high-impact stuff, before a Trash Panda attempt was countered out of.
A springboard forearm from Ospreay sees him pull ahead, but the pair trade uppercuts and chops as a reverse Bloody Sunday from Ospreay almost nicks the win. Finlay charges Ospreay to the corner, but he can’t follow up as Ospreay slams him, before an uppercut caught Ospreay in the ropes ahead of a superplex. Finlay goes for an Acid Drop, but ends up getting caught with a hook kick before a facebuster from Ospreay put him back in control. A Storm Breaker’s countered as Finlay goes for some flash pins, but Ospreay countered a backslide… only for Finlay to sit down on him for a near-fall.
A uranage backbreaker drops Ospreay, but a one-man Spanish fly stops Finlay’s momentum in a hurry. Another Storm Breaker’s blocked as Finlay nails the Trash Panda for a near-fall, before an Acid Drop ended with Finlay being shoved outside as he took a nasty spill to the floor. Ospreay brays to have the match called off as doctors check up on Finlay… so the referee just starts the count. Finlay beats the count, but can’t avoid a springboard dropkick, as a powerbomb gets a two-count before Ospreay trapped him in a Figure Four. Removing Finlay’s boot served to increase the pressure, but Finlay manages to get to the ropes to force a break. Punches to the neck in the ropes force the referee to separate Ospreay, before an attempted uppercut was simply side-stepped.
Knees to the face keep Ospreay ahead, as did a rolling elbow, before another hook kick stopped another Finlay stunner. He finally lands it though, countering an OsCutter for a near-fall, but Ospreay snaps back with a Storm Breaker attempt, which Finlay countered into a ‘rana for a near-fall! A clothesline spins Ospreay to the mat as Finlay hops in for an Acid Drop, but Ospreay countered it into a powerbomb, then a Storm Breaker for the win. A fantastic showing in defeat for David Finlay, whose New Japan Cup dream comes unstuck at the semis – but don’t write him off. He’s in the form of his life right now it seems – and I can only hope that there’s some longer term plans for him. ****
New Japan Cup Semi-Final: EVIL vs. Shingo Takagi
Who’s lining up against Will Ospreay tomorrow then? It’s gotta be Shingo, you’d think, but stranger things have happened…
EVIL rolls outside at the bell to whisper something to Dick Togo… in the ring, the pair trade elbows before shoulder tackles led to Shingo chopping EVIL down. A whip takes EVIL to the corner, before they head outside as Shingo looks to hit a death valley driver… but Togo pulls EVIL away and begins to scurry. That quick Benny Hill chase ends in the ring as EVIL clotheslines Shingo, before EVIL charged down the timekeeper. Again. Togo’s tacked up some chairs for EVIL to suplex Shingo onto on the floor, which led to a count-out tease that Shingo breaks. A chained up abdominal stretch is caught as Red Shoes Unno just rolls outside to stop Togo… but it lets EVIL chuck Shingo into the exposed corner pad for a two-count.
Shingo blocks a Fisherman buster, then hits his combo of an elbow, a jab and a lariat to take EVIL down, before a suplex saw Shingo get a two-count after he’d gone to scare Togo away. A sliding lariat from Shingo misses, as EVIL backs into the corner to block a noshigami… before he came back with a ref-assisted thrust kick. The Fisherman buster’s next for a two-count, before EVIL’s Sharpshooter was punched away. Shingo pushes away a lariat and comes back with noshigami before Last of the Dragon was escaped.
EVIL grabs the hair and pulls Shingo into a backbreaker, before EVIL threw Shingo into the exposed corner. A clothesline keeps him there, before a superplex bounced Shingo off the mat. The Darkness Scorpion follows, but Shingo gets to the ropes and forces a break, before Everything is EVIL was blocked. Shingo counters back with his own version, but EVIL fought back with a clothesline to knock Shingo down. Elbows follow, with EVIL getting knocked back down, but Dick Togo pops up again to distract as EVIL uses a chair, breaking the seat off over Shingo’s head. A lariat off the ropes followed for a two-count, before Darkness Falls gets another near-fall. From there, EVIL pulls up Shingo for Everything is EVIL, but it’s blocked as Made in Japan ends up getting a near-fall.
EVIL throws Red Shoes Unno in the way to avoid a Pumping Bomber… then threw Shingo into the ref as we begin the bullshit. Togo’s in to take his shots, before EVIL hits a low blow to save his man from a Last of the Dragon. A Magic Killer drops Shingo as Togo rolls the referee back in to make a delayed two-count. Togo’s back in with the garotte wire to choke… but Shingo powered out and tosses the wire away. Double-teaming ends with a double clothesline from Shingo, who looked to pull ahead again. Another low blow’s blocked as Shingo hits a headbutt… then a Pumping Bomber, but he can’t make the cover, and ends up going for Last of the Dragon… which gets the win. If you can look past the usual EVIL shenanigans, this was a good little slugfest, but unfortunately EVIL’s gonna EVIL, and that dragged it down somewhat. ***¼
So we’ve got a rematch of 2019’s five-star Best of the Super Junior final, as Shingo Takagi and Will Ospreay look to figure out which of them will take on Kota Ibushi for the unpopular new title at Sakura Genesis over Easter weekend.
After the match, Shingo’s closing speech leads to the obligatory staredown with Will Ospreay, who jumped him with a mic shot as a Storm Breaker was teased. Shingo back body drops and clotheslines Ospreay to the outside as Ospreay’s attempt to get a head-start on tomorrow backfired. We’re back nice and early tomorrow for the finals – if you’re in the States, that’s 10pm on the West Coast, 1am on the East Coast… or 5am over in the UK.
Credit has to go to Kevin Kelly, Gino Gambino and Chris Charlton on commentary for being able to effortlessly fill time on air amid the unprecedented mid-show earthquake. While the headlines for this show will likely be dominated by the real world event, this was David Finlay’s coming of age – sure, he lost, but this was a career performance that should at least send a signal to those in charge that he’s got more in his locker than “just being a tag team guy.”